According to Lindsey Adler of the Athletic, there seems to be some controversy among Yankee fans regarding Aaron Hicks and his occupation of the three spot in the Yankee lineup. I haven’t seen this personally, but I’m not a major beat writer for the team, nor do I even have a public-facing Twitter account through which I can see said controversy.
I’m with Adler here in that I don’t get why it might be controversial. Additionally, given what I’ve seen in the mentions of the VF314 twitter account, many of you seem to agree with Adler and me. But, again, just because I haven’t experienced it doesn’t mean the controversy isn’t there. Let’s take a look at the idea of Hicks in the three hole.
Before we get any further, let’s start with a little irony. Yesterday, Aaron Hicks did this in a Spring Training game:
Truly typical #3 hitter stuff, right?
If we want to get overly simplistic, there are two ways to construct a lineup: by the book and by The Book. The former is a very old approach and the latter is slightly younger, though even the updated part of that post dates back to 2012. The old school way of thinking says you should put your best overall hitter in the three spot to consistently knock in the leadoff guy, who’s moved around by the second hitter. The newer approach to lineup construction has a lot to say about the three spot, which I’ll summarize:
- It’s the fifth most important spot in the lineup, suited for the fifth best hitter, unless the fourth best hitter’s value comes mostly from his high rate of homers
- It comes up often with no runners on and two outs, decreasing its importance
Going by that first point, it may seem that Luke Voit is better suited for the three spot, but he hits for a decent enough average and draws enough walks that, overall, he may be better than Hicks when we factor in power. If we were ranking the Yankees’ best hitters, DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton would be the top three. Voit and Hicks are four and five, probably, especially after down years from Gleyber Torres and Gary Sánchez.
The second point also points to Hicks in a way. Even though he’ll often come to the plate with no one on and two outs, Hicks has a good enough eye that he can start a two out rally with a walk. He also has enough pop to make a rally himself with a homer or put himself in easier position to score for Stanton behind him.
So while it may seem that placing Aaron Hicks in the three spot is an unconventional idea, by at least one measure, it’s actually pretty orthodox. Additionally, he breaks up the two power-righties in Judge and Stanton, which Aaron Boone likes to do for some reason. Just let the big boys bop back-to-back, Boonie! Bah.
This is a lot of words to say I see why this makes sense and if there is a controversy, I don’t quite get why. Truthfully, there isn’t really a need for any controversy with the Yankee lineup. At full strength like it is now, and hopefully will be when the season starts, there is almost no wrong way to arrange the hitters; they’re just that good.